I remember the first time I said the R-word in front of someone that was disabled. In fact, I will never forget it.
I was 15 and was eating dinner with my best friend and her family. Kathy, her cousin with cerebral palsy, was at the table when I blurted out, “Like, it was TOTALLY retarded! Ha ha!” But no one was laughing. Not even me.
Even though I knew it wasn’t an appropriate word, I didn’t completely eradicated it from my vocabulary. I’d use it occasionally in self-depricating humor or to high-light someone’s ridiculous mistake.
Not until years later, when a good friend gave birth to her third child, did the R-word come back to slap me in the face.
Sweet John was born nice and fat and healthy. Or so it seemed. The birth was easy and quick with no complications, so there was no reason to worry when his eyes were crossed at 3 months. The doctor said this was not uncommon, but requested an MRI to rule out anything going on in the brain.
But there was. At some point in utero, John had suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. It could have been a kinked or compressed cord, they really don’t know. It left John with partial death of the cerebral white matter that is essential in the communication between the left and right hemisphere.
And while John walks and laughs and plays and is a delight to the family, he is also legally blind, does not talk and is will always require the assistance of his family.
If only my 15 year-old self had taken her lesson a little more seriously, I may have avoided using the R-word in a flippant manner at dinner with John’s parents. It was a surreal moment as I felt the world slow down for a few seconds so I could step outside of my body and observe the pain. Their pain. Because that word is hurtful and derogatory.
This article isn’t about my embarrassment, however, it is about what happened AFTER the dinner. My ears are now super sonic receptors to the R-word. And I am amazed at how much the word is used. Everywhere. I hear it EVERYWHERE. From kids to adults, boys to girls, the word is used as a casual description of anything negative or flawed.
Language is a fascinating thing. It evolves, changes, and even multiplies each generation. So, while the word once meant something innocent, it now has a new meaning of “dumb” and “stupid.” Even if you are using it innocently and would never call a disabled person the R-word, the energy around the word has changed.
Yes, words have energy and frequencies. Look at Masaru Emoto’s water study for proof that words have power. Dr. Emoto taped words to containers of water – from “love” to “I hate you” – and photographed the effects. The pictures are astonishing. Mind blowing. You can see a glimpse of his work here. I’m confident it will change the way you think about the r-word forever. Because, if negative words can have such a profound effect on water when they merely are TAPED to it, think of what they can do when they are SPOKEN.
Happy Birthday, John! Six years old already. Time flies. Look at how far you’ve come and how many lives you have touched. You are R-adical, R-adiant, R-efreshing. Sometimes R-owdy, R-ambunctious and R-ediculous….but always R-emarkable.